Toyota's NASCAR management says the Japanese manufacturer remains committed to competing in NASCAR, following its recent pullout from Formula 1.
While Toyota failed to win a single race in Formula 1, it has claimed four manufacturer titles in NASCAR's Truck series and two in Nationwide. It made its debut in the Sprint Cup Series in 2007, winning 20 races thus far and, despite being in contention for the title for the past two years, Toyota is still chasing a drivers' or manufacturers' championship in NASCAR's top series.
Even if its commitment remains in place, Toyota Racing Development president Lee White says his company still has to be very strict with its budgets under the current economic climate. He says the company's withdrawal from Formula 1 doesn't mean that financial or technical resources will be freed up toward the NASCAR program.
"We remain committed to NASCAR racing, and NASCAR remains committed to us, and all the manufacturers, in fact," said White. "I think we're no more worried today than we have been for a year where we know that we have to be responsible with budgets – we cannot cowboy and freelance and go off the ranch, so to speak. We have to adhere very strictly to our budgets, which are approved, and do our best to provide the best performance on track and gain results for the company.
White says he was as surprised as everyone else to learn about the company's decision to stop its F1 program. "Toyota's motorsports activity globally is managed by a motorsports management committee and, once a year, they have a group motorsports meeting. We send a representative there, and we present our budgets and our plans and everything to that group," White added. "We had maybe a few hours' advance notice the announcement was coming, but beyond that we were surprised just like everyone else."
White believes Toyota's pullout sends a message to every form of motorsports in the world, not only about controlling costs but also about keeping the sport relevant to the fans, an area where he reckons NASCAR has done a good job.
"I think there's a message there that should go globally to every motorsports contention around the world," he said. "It's not only cost containment based on the current economic challenges that we all face, but also keeping motorsports relevant to fans and looking at green elements, entertainment factors and competition and so on.
"There's a lot involved with keeping motorsports a sport, but also making it entertainment that attracts fans. NASCAR's done a great job on that, they're doing a great job in leading the way and looking forward. At this point in time, we're very, very pleased with our relationship with them and the direction that they're taking." Toyota provides financial and technical support to a number of teams in all three of NASCAR's national racing series.